From the beginning of creation, God assigned to man the task of caring for His creation. He was to work the ground and have dominion over every living creature. Genesis 1:26-28 tells us: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"
What a great responsibility and privilege was given to man and woman. They were created to bear the image of God and to tend all the good things He had created. However, we know from the story told in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve sinned against and broke fellowship with Him. The harmony which the Lord had created was now broken. No longer would man be able to easily work the ground, and even the relationship to all creation was disrupted including the care for and treatment of animals. To see how the perfect creation which God has made has fallen into disrepair since the Fall of Man, we have only to look at the news. Disappearing species of animals, pollution,
and disease has taken its toll on both creatures and man alike. Paul wrote these words in Romans 8:21-22: "21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." With the fall, we have all seen the corruption of sin and its effects upon this world. Recently, some terrible examples have been prominent in the headlines.
A man in Arcadia, FL poured gasoline over his dog and set him on fire. The animal was not killed but suffered serious burns. He was rescued and underwent weeks of intensive treatment to save his life and his vision. A team of veterinarians in the Tampa Bay area worked very hard to save his life. Seeing recent pictures of this dog demonstrates his return to health. We can only shake our head in wonder as to how someone could do such a thing.
In another case, as yet unresolved, the police found a dog drowned with a cinder block tied to it. No one knows who did this deed but again, why would someone want to harm an innocent animal? There are rescue shelters, ads that can be placed in the newspaper, and even neighbors who might want this dog. However, it all goes back to the heart of the problem. Man is fallen. His heart is darkened by sin and he only thinks of himself. This spreads to every relationship and to the treatment of animals.
Proverbs 12:10 reads: "Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel." The footnote in my Reformation Study Bible says: "God takes account of our treatment of animals. This is consistent with concern for the right order of things in the world. The wicked person is incapable of kindness even towards his livestock." There is the difference between those who have a new heart from God through Christ and those who do not.
A friend of mine told me that we can tell a lot about a man's character by how he treats his animals, and I have to agree. Cruelty to animals, disregard for God's creation, and animosity towards others all point to a fallen nature. As my husband would say, "It all goes back to the Garden."
Through Christ, we have the privilege of having our sins forgiven through His sacrifice on the cross. We receive a new heart and see all that God has created through His eyes. With that new outlook, we are meant to love one another and fulfill the mandate which God gave to man from the beginning. Having dominion over this earth and creation means we are to take care of it for the glory of God. As believers, let us look with new wonder at all that God has made. Then, may we be found faithful to care for God's creation as He has called us to do. Selah!